Often for the benefit of the wealthy, the laws of this world are made complicated — it gives lawyers more scope to argue their clients are not responsible or that you are. So if you get into a dispute, it’s always helpful to have someone tell you what your rights are. Getting into a car accident is one obvious situation where large sums of money may be involved — the cost of medical treatment or the repair of some vehicles is increasing every year, whilst the amount of the mandatory minimum car insurance remains low. Now that Colorado has abandoned its experiment with no-fault car insurance, the law of tort is back in full force. If litigation is in the wind, you should always get advice on how to protect your interests.
So do you qualify for a free car insurance lawyer?
If you are single and earn less than $14,363 a year, you are entitled to free legal advice. If you are one of a family of four and you make less than $29,438 a year, free advice is also available. Should you earn more than the trigger amounts, the courts run self-help centers with both online, phone, and walk-in sessions available to offer basic advice. Around the state, there are also free or low-cost clinics run by volunteers. Some of these offer one-on-one advice and the majority have at least one person available who can speak Spanish.
What about criminal matters?
If you need an attorney for a criminal problem, you should contact the Public Defender’s office. Everyone charged with a crime, even if it’s only a ticket for a minor offense, has a right to legal counsel. Even the small tickets can require assistance because, if you pick up too many, your car insurance rates can rise rapidly. More importantly, the penalties for the more serious moving violations can be severe. Thus, if you have low income, you have a right to counsel. Otherwise, you will have to pay.
Colorado law makes it an offense to drive any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or while your ability to drive is impaired — these offenses are usually abbreviated to DUI and DWAI. Although these offenses can be proved by different types of evidence, the central planks of any case against you are a test of your breath and of your blood. So if the blood test shows a blood alcohol level of more than 0.05 but less than 0.08 whilst driving a noncommercial vehicle, the court can infer your ability to drive was impaired. For these purposes, it’s not required you were swerving from side to side and narrowly avoiding collisions. Your concentration only needs to be slightly affected. Any evidence you are less able than an ordinary driver is enough for a conviction. If your BAC is above 0.08, the court can infer you were under the influence of alcohol. Given the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, you should also note the presence of 5 nanograms of delta-9 THC allows the court to infer you were under the influence of cannabis.
For these purposes, the law assumes you have already given your consent to any test reasonably required to establish whether you have committed an offense. If you refuse any test, your driver’s license can be revoked.
The penalties range from a simple fine to community service and imprisonment. Suspension of your driver’s license is always an option whether for the immediate offense or because you have accumulated enough points on your license. It’s sometimes possible to arrange a plea bargain if you agree to go through an alcohol or drug addiction treatment program. This can reduce the penalties. But if you prove to be a persistent offender, the chances of a plea bargain disappear and more serious penalties become available to the courts.
Remember the car insurance companies will be interested if you are convicted of DUI or DWAI. Any suggestion you are a high-risk driver and your annual premium rate may become unaffordable and force you into the state-subsidized high-risk pool. This represents a major long-term problem and advice and/or representation from an experienced car accident attorney is vital if you are to keep your losses within reasonable bounds.